Some of my favorite YA fantasies with princesses, dragons, and/or magic, in random order:
Patricia C. Wrede: Lyra Chronicles are unrelated stories set in the same world. My favorite is The Raven Ring, but they’re all good. Frontier Magic is kind of an urban fantasy series, except “urban” is wilderness. Anyway, it’s about twins, the seventh son of a seventh son and his sister, the thirteenth child. Cecilia and Kate is historical fantasy with magic, and so is Mairelon. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles tell of a princess who seeks out a dragon to avoid an unwanted marriage. One of the short stories that goes with the series is called The Frying Pan of Doom, and it’s a hoot. Wrede also has good standalones.
Clare B. Dunkle: The Hollow Sky (sci fi) is good, but The Hollow Kingdom is better. Goblins and elves in new ways, with strong heroines who aren’t necessarily good fighters. To quote the king’s advisor (more or less), “One of your parents saved the kingdom, and sometimes I forget which.”
Michelle Knudsen: Trelian series. What are you supposed to do when you find a dragon egg in the forest? Keep it, of course. But how do you tell your parents?
Jonathan Stroud: Bartimaeus series, about an apprentice who steals a magic amulet, calls a demon, but things don’t go exactly as he planned. If you like the footnotes, check out Terry Pratchett.
Laurence Yep: any of his fantasies are good, but I’m particularly fond of his Dragon Steel series. If you’ve been looking for a good Asian fantasy, start with this classic.
Garth Nix: Abhorsen series. On one side of The Wall is the normal world, with no magic except when there’s a strong breeze from the other side.
Brandon Mull: Fablehaven. Magical creatures in a secret reserve. All is well, until everything goes wrong and the children have to save the day.
Elizabeth Haydon: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme. Ven is a shipbuilder’s son, and on his first “check out the ship” voyage, he’s kidnapped and lost. He’s a very kind hero.
Jane Yolen (also found in adult fantasy): She has a LOT of books, but I’ll mention The Seelie Wars, in which a hostage faerie prince and a common human reluctantly team up against both sides of the faeries. The Pit Dragon series is kind of a sci-fi/fantasy blend where dragons are perfectly natural creatures who are mostly raised in breeding barns and used in wagered fights like cocks or bears.
Dawn Cook: Truth series. A girl searches for her missing father and discovers she has magic. With a boy from the plains, she must fight an evil sorcerer to win back her father’s magic book. And there are dragons, but they aren’t what you think…
Julie Kagawa: Fey series. A teenage girl discovers her father was really a faerie king, and she has the power to save—or destroy—the fae.
Sheila A. Nielson: Forbidden Sea series. Mermaids! Can a girl save her younger sister from a vengeful mermaid? (First book is trad-published, second is indie.)
Lou Anders: Thrones and Bones series. Elves, giants, and trolls in a setting reminiscent of old Norse.
James M. Ward: Halcyon Blythe. Steampunk with dragons. Halcyon is a sailor on a dragon-frigate. No, the ship doesn’t hunt dragons; the ship IS a dragon.
Elizabeth Kerner: The Tale of Lanen Kaeler. Lanen has dreamed of meeting dragons all her life, so when she gets the chance to go to their island, nothing will stop her.
Andre Norton: Halfblood Chronicles series. Elves rule all the known lands, keeping humans as slaves. But there is a prophecy of a halfblood who can destroy their reign…
Tui T. Sutherland: Wings of Fire. All dragons, all the time. Different races of dragons in different lands, always fighting until five unlikely dragonets become friends.
Jessica Day George: also LOTS of books. Dragon Slippers, in which a girl in need of a job accidentally gains the one thing that allows her to control dragons. The Rose Legacy, where horses are forbidden and so is magic, but both are returning. Castle Glower, where the royal castle rearranges its rooms on a regular basis and one young princess holds the key to defeating the enemy. The Princesses of Westfalin, where each new book is a different retold fairytale about another sister in the royal family.
C.S. Lewis: Narnia, which is accessed through a few magical gates that throw unsuspecting Earthlings into a land with talking animals and satyrs and magic.
Pamela F. Service: Winter of Magic’s Return duology. Many years in the future, after an apocalypse, Merlin returns, but can he find his magic in the new world?
Tamora Pierce: Tortall series (plural). Strong heroines and honorable heroes, warriors and gods, magic and monsters. For a cleaner standard, skip the first series, which has a “relationship” (undescribed) and some accidental nudity.
Knee-Deep in Thunder, by Sheila Moon: a boy finds himself in a world where insects are his size and monsters roam free. In order to get home again, he must help the animals defeat the monsters.
Liz McCraine (indie): her Kingdom of Aggadorn series has magic, the occasional princess, and unicorns. The series is lightly connected, but you can start anywhere. I love her characters, her realistic (and clean) romances, and that there is always a main plot besides the romance.
Laura M. Drake (indie): Unexpected Magic. If you like Harry Potter and The Last Airbender, then you might like this elemental-magic academy series.
Lloyd Alexander: Chronicles of Prydain. A pig-keeper’s apprentice gets tangled in dangerous matters when he accidentally rescues a prince from a dark lord. With an odd assortment of companions, including a princess, a dwarf, a bard, and a whatever-he-is, his quest to find himself will change the kingdom. I thought it was a great compliment when people told me my books “felt” like Prydain, because I love the series.
M.L. Farb (indie): King series. When a silent revolutionary and a spoiled princeling meet, the kingdom will change forever. I’m not really happy with the romance of book 2, but the characters and the writing are as good as book 1.
Robin McKinley: The Hero and the Crown. Aerin is the daughter of the king and a witch. Now dragons are stalking the land, and she is the only one who can fight them. While I would classify Aerin as a strong heroine, it’s her honesty, her determination, and her desire to protect her land that make her the hero.
And if you’ll forgive the self-promo, I’ll mention my own series, Unexpected Heroes. The first book is Wind of Choice: When their world is threatened by feuding gods, four strangers bury their differences and forge an alliance. Only the combined talents of a winged young man, a gilled islander, a shapeshifter, and a fire mage can prevent utter destruction. Each book switches to a new main character and adds a different secondary genre (mystery in book 2, romance in 3, spies & conspiracies in 4). If you want to visit the world first, Unexpected Tales is a free collection of short stories.
Enjoy, and feel free to comment if you found something you liked.
Marty C. Lee
© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.
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